Wage theft is a serious issue that affects employees across all industries and in various cities, including the Santa Barbara area. Federal and state laws guarantee employees certain rights, such as a minimum wage. When employers violate these rights and steal those wages, they are committing a crime. In fact, the Economic Policy Institute estimates that among the 10 most populated states, approximately 2.4 million workers fall victim to wage theft.
One of the ways you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of such a crime is to know how employers take advantage of employees. Here are some of the most common ways that your boss could be stealing from you.
Not paying minimum wage
The most common way that employers steal from their workers is by failure to pay minimum wage. Federal, state and local laws dictate the minimum that an employer must pay his or her employees per hour. Sometimes, these amounts differ.
For example, in 2017, the federal minimum wage was $7.25 per hour but in San Francisco, the minimum wage was $14 per hour. When there is a difference between the federal amount and the local amount, minimum wage is the higher of the two. Unfortunately, the workers who generally fall prey to employers who do not pay the legal minimum wage are those who can least afford it.
Not paying overtime
The failure to pay overtime is just as common as failure to pay minimum wage. If you are working over 40 hours per week in an hourly position, your boss should be paying you time and a half for all those extra hours.
While this is the norm in most areas, California requires that employers pay time and half on a per-day basis. For example, if an individual works 10 hours in a day, then the two hours past the standard eight-hour workday qualify for time and half. Furthermore, if an individual works more than 12 hours in a workday, the employer should be paying double for those extra hours.
Another way that employers cheat workers out of their rightful wages is by misclassifying them. For instance, if an employee is classified as a manager, this makes them an "exempt" worker. In other words, managers are not entitled to overtime because they are typically higher-level employees who receive a salary instead of hourly wages. Employers will classify employees as managers without actually allowing them to function in a managerial capacity or paying them a competitive salary to avoid having to pay overtime wages.
By understanding how employers commit wage theft, it can make you more aware if you become a victim. If your boss has been violating wage laws and stealing your pay, you might be able to take legal action and fight for the money you rightfully earned.